© Shannon Sturgis

And you can mix a big batch in advance.

April 28, 2017

What really defines a Negroni? These days, virtually every cocktail bar has a cocktail that adheres to the spirit–bitter–vermouth template; and I love a stiff, bitter drink as much as the next girl. Mezcal, Cynar, Punt e Mes? Sign me up. 

But these riffs often don’t capture the true character of a Negroni. (Nor, in fairness, do they always intend to.) A Negroni is a precise coupling of assertive gin, accommodating vermouth and capricious Campari —a delicate dance of strong and supple, herbal and weighty, bitter and sweet. 

So it’s rare that I come across a Negroni iteration that actually preserves the spirit of the drink, as does this “Negroni 57” from Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge of Plymouth Gin, the man behind the cocktail list of the Plymouth Refectory Bar at the eponymous gin’s distillery. 

“It’s been a mainstay of the Refectory Bar menu for a number of years now,” says Hamilton-Mudge; “It was a recipe I wrote when I really didn’t know what I fancied. I wanted something like a Negroni, but I also wanted a longer and more refreshing drink.”

It’s a lightly sparkling Negroni driven both by Plymouth Navy Strength gin and Plymouth Sloe. Neither, at face value, is a natural choice for the classic cocktail. At 57 percent ABV, the deceptively smooth Navy Strength will lead you down a dark and dangerous road if you allow it, especially in an already-potent drink like a Negroni. Sloe gin is another creature entirely—made from steeping dark purple sloe berries with gin and sugar—and while lovely in its own right, hardly an easy swap for a juniper-heavy spirit. 

So this Negroni splits its base between the two: the Navy Strength tempered by the Sloe; the Sloe’s rich berry echoing characteristics inherent in Campari and vermouth—fruity, smooth, with a juicy weight to it. Those classic ingredients are present, in toned-down proportion, while a significant measure of sparkling water brightens the whole thing up. 

The fancy folks at Plymouth bottle the drink, then carbonate; served over ice, it’s finished off with a spray of citrus tincture. For a home bartender, there’s a much simpler solution. Multiply the recipe below by four, six, ten, however many you’re planning to serve; combine all the ingredients in a bottle, seal the top to preserve the fizz, and refrigerate. Then, to serve, pour the chilled cocktail over ice. Dilution is already accounted for, so there’s no need for a lengthy stir. Just finish with a thick orange peel—squeezed firmly over the surface of the cocktail, to spray its fragrant citrus oils over the surface. 

“I was intrigued with how certain recipes improved with time spent in a bottle, allowing the ingredients to interact with each other, to become smoother and more rounded,” says Hamilton-Mudge. “No different than the way food that is slow-cooked and left to rest overnight allows flavors to become more integrated.” From a mixology perspective, it’s an interesting concept; from a let’s-have-a-party perspective, it’s as easy a large-format cocktail as they come. Take it from someone who poured out two dozen in a Best Western last weekend.  

RECIPE

1 1/4 oz Plymouth Gin Navy Strength
1 1/4 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
1/2 oz Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Campari
3 1/2 oz sparkling water (Perrier, or other highly sparkling water, recommended)

Combine first four ingredients in a measuring cup. Pour into a bottle with a swing-top lid, or a bottle that fits a Champagne stopper. Add sparkling water, and close lid tightly to keep in the fizz. Refrigerate until ready to drink. 

To serve, take a large wine glass and fill with cubed ice. Pour one serving of cocktail over ice. Add one orange slice, and spray the oils from an orange twist over the glass.